Fashawn booked his first club show in Fresno by downplaying the fact he was a rapper.
Truthfully, he might have forgotten to mention it at all. The venue was expecting a band.
Compare that to last week’s Beary Xmas show, which had his name on the marquee and a line down the block with 350 tickets sold before the doors even opened.
It could be lingering memories of that show — of standing mid-room, 100 people deep on all sides, my view blocked by hundreds of bouncing hands (and heads) as Fashawn flowed through “Life as a Shorty” — but it feels like 2015 might be a big year for hip-hop in Fresno.
Understand that hip-hop artists love the Valley. It’s something I continue to hear from touring acts who pass through.
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony campaigned to have the 2013 West Coast Fest kick off in Fresno because its members had all played here before and knew the fans would show. Underground rappers like Andre Nickatina, The Grouch and Murs keep Fresno on their schedules (sometimes multiple times a year) even though the city is considered a B market for most touring acts.
“I’m all about Grizzly City. Forever,” says Murs, referencing Fashawn’s moniker for Fresno. “They know what real hip-hop is.”
The Los Angeles rapper played Fresno twice this year, including a show at Fulton 55 in November.
Fans will get a good dose of hip-hop shows coming through in 2015, no doubt. That includes at least one mega-concert — Iggy Azaela’s “The Great Escape” tour, which stops at the Save Mart Center on April 14. (The argument over Azalea’s authenticity as a hip-hop artist can wait for another column.)
There is also word that Grizzly Fest, the local Rock-the-Bells style concert put on by Fashawn in 2012, will return for another round.
Which brings us back to the Fresno rapper, who is poised to blow up with the release of his album “The Ecology.”
Of course, Fashawn’s success is already quantifiable. He’s already been on the cover of XXL Magazine (in 2010 Freshman issue) and has toured the world. The difference now is that he has the backing and support of Mass Appeal Records and, more specifically from rapper Nas, who is an industry player (and considered by many as one of the greatest rappers of all time).
This means eyes on Fresno in the new year.
And, the city has talent waiting in the wings. A short list might include (but is in no way limited to) Omar Aura, Halo the Human, The Kid Ryan, Baeza, Kooleidoscope and The Roach Collection.
There’s also Aesop, who was a member of the Living Legends, the same Bay Area crew that produced The Grouch, Murs and others. He continues to record and perform (both locally and regionally) and host live shows, such as this weekend’s Hip Hop Showcase at Fulton 55.
Zee Will is new to the rap game, relatively speaking, and is already showing promise as a future star. He opened the Beary Xmas show with a full-tilt live performance and a horde of fans rapping along with every word.
Sahab is known mostly as a solo artist, whose style of electro-pop rock is outside of the realm of hip-hop, but he might break out as a hip-hop producer in 2015. He did some tracks for Zee Will’s upcoming album.
Then, there’s the indie odd ball rapper Gentle Jamie, who is working on a new album for 2015 titled “Orca.”
Maybe one of these artist will have a breakout year. But I’m fairly certain no one will be downplaying hip-hop in Fresno.